The Dirty Little Secrets of Business Intelligence: Building a Data Culture

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Like many complex information technology (IT) programs, an effective business intelligence (BI) program requires a purposeful combination of people, process and technology. When one considers the growth in data generated by the Internet of Things (IoT), smart sensors, the hosts of new intelligent devices and the proliferation of new cloud-based BI tools, it’s easy to assume that the ability to collect and process data is the critical path.

Ironically, a lack of data from which insights can be derived is hardly the problem. According to a May 2020 IDC Global Datasphere Forecast, “The amount of data created over the next three years will be more than the data created over the past 30 years, and the world will create more than three times the data over the next five years than it did in the previous five.” It’s clear that most companies are already swimming in valuable data and are producing more and more of it every minute.

Rather than facing technology and data constraints, the opportunity is to improve the ability of people to harness, consume and swiftly act upon big data to create insights that offer a competitive advantage. That means that companies need to nurture a ‘data culture’ – an environment where employees are empowered by the ability to harness all the data at their fingertips to make better decisions at speed. The organizational effectiveness of BI absolutely requires employees who value, act on, support and evangelize data-based decision-making. Building a data culture starts with building a strong foundation from which your BI solution can scale, add value and gain greater adoption over time – this foundation is made up of three main components.

Trust

Trust in the BI program can be built in a number of ways, but perhaps none more important than giving a wide group of stakeholders a “seat at the table” as the BI program is scoped. There are numerous infrastructure factors, business processes, user needs and reporting requirements that need to be taken into consideration. By making key stakeholders a part of the process, not only is trust built, but better, more comprehensive outcomes can be created. In addition, many organizations uncover new information regarding key steps that need to be taken along your BI journey to justify incremental BI investment.

Usability

As a wise person once said, “A BI dashboard is like a joke. If it has to be explained, it’s not good.” The truth is, early gains in BI program trust can be squandered unless users quickly adopt and evangelize new ways of seeing and applying data insights. enVista recommends that a group of early adopters from each stakeholder group get training early and often until they demonstrate competency. enVista has found that adoption will accelerate and sustain within an organization when users can quickly access and collaborate around the information they need to perform their job more effectively.

This was underscored by the Forrester Total Economic Impact™ analysis on The Total Economic Impact™ Of Microsoft Power BI. According to the report, “Power BI users saved time because of faster access to important information. Business users across many different roles became more efficient because they were not waiting for reports to become available or for a centralized data analytics team to complete new data analytics projects. The time savings vary by role, and the average savings was 1.25 hours per week.”

Leadership

To paraphrase Peter Drucker, who contributed to the philosophical and practical foundations of the modern business corporation, effective organizations get the results that they focus on measuring. Sustained, demonstrated leadership commitment is important, and the right organizational behaviors must be and reinforced. In building a strong data culture, it is important that organizational leadership creates and applies key performance indicators around employee BI utilization.

It is also important that leadership sets realistic expectations and milestones. Some BI results can be completed early that will make an immediate positive impact and help to reinforce the potential positive impact of BI programs in their infancy.

Summary

Building and nurturing a modern data culture is a tremendous challenge in today’s digital economy. Success will require both time and investment in creating trust, usability and leadership commitment. Aside from the new business processes and technology involved, it requires working closely with people with a broad range of needs, perspectives and skillsets. It requires continuously winning over internal teams and stakeholders and educating them around the value of data to improve the way they work and live.

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